Henry Shibata, interviewed by Josh Labove, 29 February 2016

Henry Shibata, interviewed by Josh Labove, 29 February 2016

Abstract
Henry begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia. He recalls losing his childhood friends when the war started and also explains why his father decided to take the family back to Japan. Henry not only provides a detailed account of his journey to Japan but also outlines how he found his way back to Canada. Before leaving for Japan, Henry remembers being sent to the Custodian of Enemy Property’s warehouse to retrieve his family’s belongings. However, the warehouse steward notified him that there was no record of his family leaving anything in their care. Henry moves on to explain his experiences at the Lemon Creek internment camp, the living conditions there, and the emotions he felt during and after internment. Near the end of the interview, Henry reflects on how his parents may have felt about their internment and dispossession.
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Labove Joshua (LJ)
It is Feburary 29th, 2016. I'm Josh Labove with Dr. Henry Shibata in Ottawa Ontario. Dr. Shibata, maybe just to start, you could tell me a little bit about your earliest childhood memories. Henry laughs.
LJ
I know that's ...
Henry Shibata (HS)
Yup. I was born in Vancouver on April the fourth, 1930. Both my parents came from the city of Hiroshima. I was given the name of Ryuske Henry Shibata because of my father's close neighbor, a girl who thought I should be named after the Oh Henry bar at that time. As far as my own recollection is I remember that we must've moved about four times in different places in Vancouver. On the second move I remember hearing some cooing of pigeons on the eaves of the house and I realized that I was a human being because I could hear what and where it was coming from. From that time on I recollect my mother and my father talking to me and so forth and so forth. Until then I was an inanimate object, I guess. However, getting back to what you're trying to ... The first thing I really remember about Vancouver is the fact that I was part of a religious group called the Tenikyo. As a child, my parents were sort of missionaries in Vancouver. We would have weekly gatherings of people who believed in the religion and wanted to be part of it. They would come to our home because our home was the, so called 'church' in the community. So I would remember my parents wanting me to be a part of the ceremony, kids in the other families would go out and gather to our place and we would have sort of a potluck supper. This kind of social gathering was my first recollection of what was going on in Vancouver.
LJ
What was Vancouver like at that time?
HS
Vancouver at that time was basically a downtown core of what's called Japan town around a place called Powell Street. There was Powell Grounds which was a gathering place for all kinds of sports activities where the Asahi baseball team used to play. The other gathering place was the Japanese language school which was about five blocks away from where we used to live. The church where my parents sent me to Sunday school ... not because we were Christian but because, I guess, my parents saw that I should learn English because staying at home my father and mother spoke to me in Japanese so I didn't learn English from them. The first language I really learned is from going to kindergarten and talking to the teachers there. As a matter of fact, I kept close connection with a teacher May Austin who taught us in kindergarten for many many years thereafter. The next few things is my neighbourhood friends, the boys I used to hang out with, a lot of them I kept up with them for quite a while after ... before the war. But when the war came and we were all separated in the camps, I lost track of them. One of the guys I used to hang out with when we were in Vancouver, who became very famous, is Raymond Moriyama the architect. He was one of my school friends. We used to live in the same neighbourhood and used to hang out with each other but after the war started we were in separate camps so we didn't get to talk to each other. That kind of, you know, basic upbringing in Vancouver was Japanese community, Japanese friends, going to the local kindergarten, and then onto a high school called Strathcona School, and then after Strathcona School then going to the Japanese language school which most of the Japanese kids resented because that meant we couldn't play after school we had to go to another school. In hindsight it was a good thing because my Japanese, when I got to Japan, was okay because I learned the Japanese language at the school.
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LJ
So you didn't want to go to Japanese language school?
HS
Sorry?
LJ
You didn't want to go to Japanese Lanauge ...
HS
No, because all the kids were wanting to go play baseball or soccer or whatever. All the Japanese kids would get scolded so we went along with what our parents told us to do. That was, sort of, the upbringing of Japanese families. You've got to listen to what your parents tell you. We were obedient in that way, we did go along.
LJ
What was your sport? You said there was baseball, there was soccer ...
HS
Baseball.
LJ
Baseball.
HS
Yeah, yeah. I used to love to play baseball on the Powell Grounds because the Asahi team was such a strong team. I don't know if you know it but they were in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Canada because they were such a, you know, different team in that area. They're all small, they didn't hit home runs, they didn't hit, you know, but they were fast on their feet, very agile and could bunt. They were one of the best teams in the league when it used to be there.
LJ
So you would go watch them?
HS
Oh, I used to go because Powell Grounds is only about half a block away from our home so we used to go watch them all the time.
LJ
Who would they play? I certainly have heard about the Asahi but there must have been other teams that they played.
HS
Yeah, there was another team called Vancouver Pats. They were called the Vancouver Pats.
LJ
The Pats?
HS
Yeah, the Pats. They were playing with them and I remember they were all huge guys and the Japanese Niseis were all small but they were winning all the games so it was our pride sort of thing; our hero. One of the players that used to play for the Asahi, a guy named Kaz Suga, was at our camp at Lemon Creek and he was our phys-ed teacher at the camp. He was very good at organizing sports events and so forth and also organized a primary school team which was one of the best in the camps in that area. In Slocan Valley there was Slocan, Popham, Bay Farm, Lemon Creek, and New Denver. They each had their own baseball teams and Lemon Creek used to win all of the games because Kaz Suga was such a good coach.
LJ
You were on this team?
HS
I didn't play. I was not good enough. There were other kids that were better on baseball teams and more athletic than I was.
LJ
Okay, but you were about twelve ...
HS
When the war started I was eleven and when the war finished I was sixteen. So, in a sense, between eleven and sixteen I was the oldest of seven kids. My parents had kids almost every year. When the war ended there was seven kids and my parents decided to go back to Japan. That was when my father told me “we put all our belongings in to the, so called, Custodian Office and we're going back to Japan now. I want to see if there's anything that we can take back.” So, I was instructed to go to the security office there at Lemon Creek and I said, very politely, “we want to go back to Japan but we have some stuff that's in storage in Vancouver. Can we get some of that back?” They said, “there's no record of anything like that being stored away for your family. Nothing.”
LJ
Do you remember that? Do you remember storing things away?
HS
Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I remember because before we went into Hastings Park my father and I, because I'm the oldest, built these boxes to store all our stuff in. There must have been about ten, I think, at the time that we stored stuff in there, valuable stuff, not ... because we couldn't carry it and not big things like furniture and things like that because we couldn't sell them. We just had to leave them. Oh, is that okay phone ringing Was that me?
LJ
Yup, yup. I think that's you but that's okay.
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HS
Okay, it's me probably. Anyways, I remember storing it in these boxes and since my father didn't write or read English that well, I wrote down all the stuff that was put in the boxes; made a list, you know. We kept a copy of it and the rest we put in the boxes to get to where it was . I can't remember where we took it but we did take it somewhere but then we lost track of it. Also, during that time because of the Tenrikyo religion that my parents believed in and that was because my aunt, my father's younger sister, was the first Japanese person to come to the United States and Canada to start this religion. It was a fairly new religion. It's part of the Shinto religion in Japan and there's a place called Tenri in Japan, now. There's a big city formed by this religious group called Tenri and that's why Tenrikyo comes from the word Tenri which is a logic from the heavens. That's what Tenri means and there's a city called Tenri and my aunt went there to learn and then she came to Seattle, started a religion there. She wanted to expand to Vancouver, came to Vancouver. Fortunately my parents were willing to carry on what my aunt wanted so we had this Tenrikyo religion there, a church. Once a week people would gather. It was very well organized. There were some drums and symbols and other musical instruments because one of the peculiarities of this religion was you would dance to music and while you're dancing to music you're supposed to be functioning, you know, to meditate about religion. So it's called a dancing religion, Tenrikyo. So that was part of my upbringing and that instruments and stuff, some of it was put in boxes but I don't know what happened. Later on, when I visited my aunt in Seattle she said that some of the instruments that were used in our religion in Vancouver were in some of the second hand stores in Seattle. They were sold in Vancouver to somebody who then brought it to the states and tried to sell it there in a secondhand store. She said she saw some of the stuff. Not that it was specifically ours but something resembling what we used to have in Vancouver showed up in some of the secondhand stores in Seattle.
LJ
So, as a result then, you couldn't or your parents didn't practice in the same way ...
HS
After the war, no. After the war started my parents were not religious people. They only did it because my aunt wanted them to do it and that she wanted to have a base. She would come once every two or three months to make sure everything was okay and also gave sermons to the group because she's the big teacher. She was a very forceful woman who never had children of her own but she took care of her nieces and nephews very well. She was one of the ones who made it possible for me to come back from Japan to the United States to study in Massachusetts. She provided the money for me to get passage on the freighter going from Yokohama to Seattle. This aunt, I really owe a lot to her because she's the one who introduced me to the United States. She used to send me American textbooks and medical textbooks to Japan while I was going to medical school there. I would say “I want these, these are the new textbooks.” She'd buy them and send them to me. My education in medical school in Japan was, sort of, helped by the fact that I used to read American textbooks in Japan; at that time very difficult to get because in postwar Japan there was nothing.
LJ
So ...
HS
I'm jumping all over the place.
LJ
No, it brings up a lot of questions. That's okay. I'm curious about Lemon Creek. You spent a lot of time there.
HS
Yeah. Four years, yeah.
LJ
What do you remember of it? Was it good, was it bad?
HS
No, to tell you the truth for the boys and girls living in Lemon Creek it was heaven, it was paradise because there was no pressure from anybody, we're in a place where it's only Japanese, no other people to bother us in a sense. In Vancouver we had all other nationalities over there. One of the big peeves in Vancouver was that we were right next to Chinatown. Chinatown and Japan-town next to each other, you can imagine the conflict between the two groups because of the war that was going on in China at that time and Japan was the aggressor.
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HS
So the Chinese were very very unhappy about being close to Japanese and the Japanese, in a way at that time, were more aggressive toward the Chinese. There were a lot of fights going on between boys, gangs, in Vancouver. But anyways, Lemon Creek for our parents must have been a terrible place because they had been uprooted from Vancouver. My father, who was a cook and had his own restaurant, he now had to become a logger. Although, for a while he worked as a cook in the communal kitchen that was built there until all the homes were built for us to live in. There was a communal kitchen and so my father was one of the cooks there and he got me a job as a water boy because there's no running water so water boys had to get buckets and carry buckets to the kitchen from the local stream. I was hired as a water boy laughs at the age of twelve or thirteen I was working making twenty-five cents an hour being a water boy. Then after the communal kitchen closed, all the men who had been working in the kitchen and around that area became loggers. They would go into the woods, cut the logs, pile them up, dry them so that we had something to heat our homes during the winter time. Our houses were ramshackle and huts. Tarpaper was the insulation. We had one stove in the kitchen area that was for cooking and heating the whole house. My father was a logger to cut the wood so we could heat our homes and also the wood that would heat the communal bathhouse. Japanese being very fastidious and, you know, always want to be clean and have a bath everyday almost. Well, there were two communal baths at Lemon Creek where people could go and take a bath, clean themselves. To keep the bath hot we had to have logs so logging and lumberjacks were really needed. So a lot of people were lumberjacks in those days to keep the logs going for the wintertime. Anyway, that plus the fact that school ... I don't know if I wrote it in my thing ... schools were provided by the government after grade one. From grade one after grade eight, when it was high school, it was supposed to be by correspondence from the BC government but fortunately at that time the missionaries from the United Church, the Anglican Church, and I think to a certain extent the Catholic Church stepped in and provided secondary education. We were fortunate in Lemon Creek to have two ladies of the United Church of Canada, two missionaries who had been in Japan when the war broke out and they were repatriated to Canada as part of the prisoners exchange program. They're very very good educators, very forceful women being missionaries going from Canada to Japan to try and force the Japanese people to learn English and to give them the, you know, a taste of what Christianity was all about but they were very forceful people but I really liked them a lot and they liked me. So, even after the war ended and they came to Japan we corresponded in Japan. When I came back to Canada and when they came back to Canada, for their retirement, we were still corresponding.
LJ
Do you remember their names?
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HS
Yeah. It was Hellen Hurd and Gertrude Hamilton. H-U-R-D and Gertrude Hamilton. They're both dead. They both died. They would be in their hundreds now but they were very very women. You know, bachelor women who were very forceful. They gave us good education and I'm very very happy they were there to help us with our secondary education.
LJ
What sorts of activities did you ... you mentioned baseball ...
HS
School. There was one big building, two story building, that were built by the Japanese men who were working in the camp and there they had schools and they're all divided into different grades. We had good teachers, Japanese older Nisei some of them who have been going to UBC and to other colleges were in the camps and they pitched in and were our teachers. They didn't have any degrees or things to say they were teachers but they pitched in and a lot of them were very good teachers and provided us with excellent education at that time, I think. The principal at that time was a woman named Irene Chida who later came to Hamilton and was at McMaster and she became a PhD. She has the Order of Canada. She was one of the best principals in all the camps at that time. So we had a very good education when we were kids. Mind you, we were all very unruly boys but still we really enjoyed being taught and we also subjected to the fact that although our parents were very strict as, you know, Japanese families tend to be we also had lots of fun going to school and being with our classmates where we will enjoy things like skiing. There was a hill called Henderson Hill right next to the camp and we used to go there for skiing and skating and sledding. My father ordered skates for us from Eaton's, through mail order, because in the school there was a rink that was formed in the wintertime plus we can go to the Slocan River to skate on the river. There were some wide areas where the river's water was slow flowing and ice would form and we used to go there and play hockey on the ice and skate and so forth. I remember, still, some of the days when there was no snow fall but it was very cold. The ice was crystal clear. It's like a mirror on the water. You could skate and you could see underground under the water and you see fish swimming while you're skating on top. So that kind of pleasant memories is what made camp life very good for kids. In summertime we used to go fishing. Lemon Creek, which was a small stream that was a tributary of the Slocan River, there was a lot of small trout that we can fish for. Lemon Creek was the source of water for the camp but also provided some trout for us when we want to go fishing. I love to go fishing so I used go fishing. Slocan River, we used to go fishing.
LJ
And you'd cook the trout?
HS
We caught a small trout and in the Slocan River we'd catch white fish and mud suckers. We used to call them mud suckers but I think they were catfish. Yeah.
LJ
Sounds about right.
HS
I have to go to the washroom.
LJ
Okay. Tape is paused briefly. Yeah, so your dad was a cook.
HS
Yeah, my father in Japan was trained as a tailor.
LJ
Oh, okay.
HS
When he came to BC on his own to make money he found no need for tailoring. People just weren't looking for another tailor laughs. So the only work he could find was as a short order cook. He did that for a while then he found work on a freighter, cooking on a freighter for hungry sailors and so forth. He'd go up and down the BC coast on a freighter and cooked. Then finally he wound up opening a store on, was it Hastings or Pender?
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HS
Anyways, one of those streets and he opened a store in partnership with another man and that's where he did his cooking, in the restaurant. It was all Canadian food. At home, my mother would make Canadian cuisine, my father would cook ham and eggs, and bacon and eggs, pancakes, and things like that.
LJ
I'm guessing ... I'm trying to think now. The Woodward store would have been on Hastings ...
HS
Woodward, yeah. We used to go there often. The reason why we'd go to Woodward's is because my mother would make me go there once a week or once every two weeks to pick up peanut butter.
LJ
They did have good peanut butter.
HS
Oh, yeah. You can go there and take your jar and the machine would fill your jar up. You'd put a clamp on and take it home. I'd take it home.
LJ
They apparently still sell it in the grocery store that's there. That's no longer Woodward's but it's pretty good. I don't know if it's as good as it was ...
HS
Laughing It was fantastic those days. I still love peanut butter because of Woodward peanut butter. I used to be the oldest. I had to go there and buy it and bring it home.
LJ
The jar would be a little warm.
HS
In the jar yeah. Oh, you remember that? You know that?
LJ
I know it, yeah.
HS
Not many people know that Woodward sold it there by bulk.
LJ
Good peanut butter, yeah. I'm trying to think what else would have been around there. The army-navy, was that there?
HS
I can't remember the army-navy, no.
LJ
But Woodward's would have been the place to go.
HS
Yeah, but you see, one of the things that I used to do in Vancouver, that I used to love, is fishing. I still love fishing. We would go down to the wharf and, you know, from Powell Street and go down that way towards the Burrard inlet. Around some of those wharfs, you know, you go fishing and there was this thing called a shiner in a small little perch and you can pick all you want and can fish. It's really easy. The Japanese used to call them shiner-pochee which means shining perch. We used to go fishing there and we'd bring a whole bucket and give it to my mother who would cook it and have a good meal and so forth but later on I found out the reason why those shiny perch were in that area was because they were in the sewage outlet area. I didn't know. Nobody knew. They didn't tell us laughs. No wonder the perch were congregating there is because there was an outlet for sewage.
LJ
Uhg.
HS
But anyway, nobody got sick so I guess it was okay.
LJ
Yeah. People can survive incredible things when you boil it or cook it long enough I suppose.
HS
That's right.
LJ
Yeah. So a lot of ...
HS
So Vancouver ... No, before the war it was a good place for kids to grow up in. We had lots of picnics up in the Capilano Canyon and English Bay and Stanley Park. The Japanese are good people to have picnics. They would have these picnics according to the prefecture where they came from, okay.
LJ
Oh, wow.
HS
So if you're from Hiroshima you have a Hiroshima-kenjin party or picnic. If you're from Wakayama you have a Wakayama-kenjin picnic. These picnics were not only for the people who came from Wakayama. If anybody else wanted to join, you can join.
LJ
So what would be different at a Wakayama picnic?
HS
The type of food that they have will be a little bit different.
LJ
Okay, so it would be more kansai ...
HS
Yeah, you see, that's one of the beauties of Japan. Each district in Japan have their own distinct cuisine or cooking style. So Wakayama would have its own, Hiroshima would have its own, Yamaguchi would have its own, you know, Hokkaido would have its own different kind of cooking.
LJ
Yeah.
HS
Okinawa would have its own.
LJ
Yeah.
HS
If you go to these places and everybody has a big strand you can go around and pick what you want and eat. So they would all share.
LJ
Sounds fun.
HS
Yes. That's what I remember about the, so called, kenji, you know, prefectural parties. Capilano Canyon was the favourite place to go. Yup.
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LJ
Well, I'm trying to think if there's anything else that we haven't talked about. I know you're working on a big autobiography. Did we cover most of the big phases? Was there anything that we've missed so far?
HS
No, if you want to stick to the, you know, postwar and war years we've covered most of the stuff because my recollections are not that good. I mean, I remember a lot about Japan and a lot about Beverly Massachusetts but when you go back to Vancouver and Lemon Creek my memory becomes a little sketchy.
LJ
I think you remember plenty.
HS
Yeah laughs. I still have some pictures of some of those things like Lemon Creek. It's unfortunate it's not here because we moved from Montreal to here in October. All our worldly belongings were put in crates or containers and they're in a warehouse somewhere here. When we pick a new house, we're looking for a new house, a bigger house so we can have our own quarters and they could have their own quarters but we have a community kitchen and den and so forth, backyard. This place is too small for us so we're looking for a bigger place. So our container will be shipped to that place. We've got all kinds of things in there, the pictures.
LJ
Yeah, when you get settled in your new place we'll have to catch-up.
HS
I'll try and get the pictures, yeah.
LJ
It would be something to look at for sure. Were you the family photographer or ...
HS
Not really. Well, I ... Yeah, some of the photography I did because I used to have one of those little Kodak box cameras. I used to take pictures of that but I ... Hi Krista ...
HS
I told you about my background in Lemon Creek that we had education in primary school and high school; that for activities we'd ski, skate, sledding, fishing, all that; and then we had communal baths where people would congregate and talk to each other. The primary school auditorium happened to be large enough so that we would be able to witness, or look at, American movies that used to be sent to each of the camps. There was an enterprising guy who bought a novelty Ford, or whatever, so he could travel from camp to camp, a guy named ... I think his name was Mas Toyota. He'd go from camp to camp taking reels of movies that we can watch.
LJ
Do you remember some of the titles that you ...
HS
Some of the titles, no I don't remember what we were seeing in camp but they were American movies sometimes war propaganda movies.
LJ
Oh really?
HS
Sure, and then some comedies. We used to get a lot of American music on the radios and so forth. That's what we grew up on in the camps, American propaganda movies and American pop music and so forth. So, as I was saying at the beginning, life in the camps were okay for kids. We didn't really suffer because food was okay. There were three provisional stores that you can go to and buy whatever you wanted and in the summertime a lot of parents would have gardens in their backyard to grow vegetables. For fruits there was these local Doukhobors who used to be, you know, farmers in that district. There were a lot of them displaced from Russia, I guess, and they were into growing vegetables and fruits so they would come with their wagons and sell stuff so we had lots of food that way. There were some limitations, sure, because of the war. We didn't really suffer at all in terms of food and education was okay, activities were okay. So, in a way, you know the parents may have suffered to a certain extent because of the war and being displaced, and some of them didn't speak English that well. It was not a bad life, really.
LJ
And you had your siblings?
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HS
Yeah, I had six others in my family.
LJ
But you had to keep them all in line, I suspect, as the ...
HS
Well, being the oldest I used to have to babysit a lot so I would resent the fact that I want to go play with all my friends but yet my mother would say “you have to look after the smaller ones.” We got along okay.
LJ
Your youngest sibling would have been six or seven years younger than you?
HS
No, my youngest sibling, I think, is twelve years younger than me because my next brother is one year younger than I am, the next one is two years younger, three years younger than I am. So it was every two years almost.
LJ
Okay.
HS
My father and mother had seven kids and one was born in Canada. The last one was born just before we left Vancouver. My mother gave birth to my younger sister. So there were seven of us in the camp and then seven in the repatriation ship that took us back to Japan. An American troop ship called General Mags.
LJ
So, you got on a boat to go to Japan. When about was this?
HS
This was in July, 1946 a year after the atomic bomb had been dropped in Japan.
LJ
And you had never been to Japan at that point?
HS
Never. See, this book here I got today at the library.
LJ
Reading title of book: Uprooted Again Japanese-Canadians move to Japan after World War Two.
HS
Yeah, it's the first time I've seen this book. It was written by this guy named Tatsuo Kage. I don't know who he is but he has written a very extensive article on what may have happened to some of the people who went to Japan. I was never interviewed. I know two of my friends that I know were in Japan and then came back to Canada after the war, they were interviewed but they have different stories from what's going on in this book.
LJ
If you had been interviewed by him what would you have told him? So let's start on that boat, how long did it take ...
HS
The boat from Vancouver to Yokohama ... near Yokohama there's a place called Kuriyama. It took about ten days.
LJ
Okay.
HS
On that ship, even though the quarters were crowded and there was very little privacy, men women and kids were all thrown in together in the huge hole where it used to be just troops, you know. The sailing was smooth, there was no storm or anything. On the deck, all the young Niseis, men and women, girls and boys, used to congregate, talk to the sailors, listen to music and so forth. It wasn't a bad trip but once we got to Japan it was a different story. Once we got to Japan and we were shipped to this naval installation that had these huge barrack type buildings we were on our own. Fortunately, it was summertime. It was in July. It wasn't cold but they were all barrack type buildings there was no insulation, there's no heating, toilet facilities were outhouses, and, I don't know if you've been to Japan but in the old days there was no sitting toilets you had to squat. We didn't know. None of the kids knew about squatting. It was an introduction to a societal system that we knew nothing about because in Canada everybody sat. Even in the ship you sat, but once you got to Japan you're squatting and it's a big hole in the ground. You can see what's down underneath laughs. That was a rude introduction to Japan for us, in a sense. And then, for some reason, the people from Lemon Creek that decided to go back to Japan, I'm not sure how many of us were there, but I know that the General Mags, according to the story, took about 1500 people back to Japan at one time. I don't know how many were from Lemon Creek but the Lemon Creek people that were on ship, before we left Lemon Creek, I don't know if it was my father or whoever said “hey, the people in Japan may be starving so let's take 200 bags of Canadian flour, each company.” Take it with our stuff to give to the people in Japan so we had 200 pounds of flour in our belongings.
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LJ
Okay.
HS
Laughing I know that we took this off the ship to Kuriyama and there was no storage space in the barrack type building so we left it in the train station on the platform. Low and behold, it disappeared some of them and some of the belongings left on the platform disappeared because Japanese people were coming and stealing them. So they had to have a voluntary guarding system to make sure that they don't steal everything because there was no police. Well, there was some police but they were not coming around to look after us. I was one of the many that were asked, because I was older, to stand guard at night to make sure that the things don't get stolen. When my father and I stayed behind, my mother and other siblings they all went back to Hiroshima before we did. My father and I returned, I think, about one week later because we couldn't get our belongings on the train to Hiroshima. At that time, it was terrible in Japan one year after the war. It was a battle ground. It was everybody for their own. There was no discipline. Everybody stealing from other people, people going hungry, people dying on the streets, and there's no way of getting on the train unless you push your way in or climb through the windows because you can get through from the loading platform onto the thing because there's a whole crowd of people standing there. They won't move. So in order to get in and on the train some people had to use the windows to get in and out. It was that bad. When we got to Hiroshima, fortunately ... I'm getting ahead of myself but my father and mother their motive for going back to Japan was to look after our relatives if they needed help after the atomic bomb. They're both from the city, they both had family. My father had one sister, my mother had six siblings that she hadn't heard from. When we got there to Kuriyama, fortunately because of the Japanese, you know, disciplinary action they're very good at organizing things and they had this telegraph system going. So my father went to them and asked them “could you send a telegraph to Hiroshima, the city hall there to see if any of our relatives are still alive.” So they did. Fortunately, my mother's family got one of these telegrams and they immediately came, three. Two uncles and an aunt came to Kuriyama from Hiroshima to take my brothers and sisters and my mother back to Hiroshima. My father and I stayed behind until we could get our stuff loaded onto a train to take back to Hiroshima. That was chaos, at that time. As time went on, even though my Japanese was somewhat limited I was able to get into high school and then get into medical school. In the meantime, fortunately because Japanese people were under the armed forces, you know, occupation forces, a lot of the people wanted to learn English. So, at the age of sixteen, seventeen I was an English teacher at the local church. They had opened up an English language school and someone heard, well, not someone ... I went to the church because even though I wasn't Christian I went to the church on Sundays just to see what's going on and the missionary and I got to be friends and he said “why don't you come to my school that I just opened, English school, why don't you teach?” I said “fine.” I'm willing to teach so I went about four times a week to teach while going to school and because of the fact that English was becoming such a, shall we say, essential language in Japan after the war that people were willing to pay to learn English the schools made it compulsory for English language; high schools, medical schools, and universities.
00:45:18.000
00:45:18.000
HS
So, being with my proficiency in English I had no problem. I passed my English test without any problems. I think that's one of the reasons why I was allowed to get into medical school even though, I'm sure, my Japanese wasn't up to par and my scientific knowledge in biology and so forth was not up to par but because of my English they would allow me to get into medical school and there I prospered. I really did well in medical school and I became very good friends with my classmates and so forth. After I graduated in 1955 I took a job in the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. It's a join US-Japanese research center to study the after effects of radiation on the human body after the atomic bomb. See, Hiroshima was destroyed by the atomic bomb. It was a uranium bomb, apparently. Now, uranium is an isotope that's supposed to stay under the ground for a long time. The half-life is very long so the ground must've been contaminated, I'm sure. Nagasaki, the same thing, they had the plutonium bomb there. Plutonium has also a long half-life but the difference between Nagasaki and Hiroshima was Hiroshima was very flat so there were more people who died. I think double the number of people died in Hiroshima as opposed to Nagasaki. Nagasaki was a very hilly place so the blast didn't travel that far or was retarded by the mountains and hills. But anyways, the ground must have been contaminated at the time and I'm sure that even one year later there must have been some contamination but the Americans said nothing about that. The Japanese wanted some knowledge about how much contamination there was but the Americans wouldn't say it. I'm sure they had Geiger counters there to measure what the contamination level was at that time but no, no knowledge, nothing. Anyways, I don't know if I was radiated by the atomic bomb and something happened but at least I can say that I have three offspring. So the radiation didn't affect me badly. Those kinds of things were what we faced when we first went to Japan. The gross lack of discipline, the black market, you could buy things on the black market if you had the money or you had something to barter with but, fortunately for me and my family, all my relatives none of them died because of the atomic bomb. The reason why they were all saved is because in Japan they were worried about the incendiary bombs, the firebombs. The Americans were dropping firebombs in Japan because they knew the Japanese homes were wood and paper. There's no concrete or brick buildings. So if they dropped these incendiary bombs they'd go right through the firewood, right through the district or region and destroy everything. They didn't have to drop big bombs. So the Japanese, what they did was build fire lanes. They knocked down houses so that they had fire lanes so the fire will not spread from one place to the next. Fortunately, my relatives all lived in these fire lanes that were created to stop the fire from destroying the whole district. They were all evacuated from the city before the atomic bomb hit the country. So they all survived. None of them died. They were the ones who looked after us. We went to Japan trying to help these people and they helped us.
LJ
Obviously, Japan was a new place for you when you got there for the first time. Did you miss Canada? Is that ...
HS
I was very upset with my father because he had, not really painted a rosy picture of Japan, but he said all these good things about Japan and so forth. I believed him and when I got to Hiroshima I saw the disaster and the chaos. I said to him “why the hell did you bring me to this godforsaken place?” and I was very upset. For a while, I even thought about trying to find a way to come back to Canada again but there's no way I could do it.
00:50:23.000
00:50:23.000
HS
There's no money, and there was no route but as I wrote in my thing that I sent to Jordan, some of the Nieseis about my age, sixteen-seventeen-eighteen, instead of going to school they went to work for the armed forces. The Americans ruled Japan. MacArthur was king and each of the districts around Japan were the responsibility of the American forces but for some reason Hiroshima, Kure, that area was under the occupation forces of the English and Australian forces. So a lot of people my age, because of their proficiency with English, were able to find jobs as interpreters at these places. Even I found a summer job as an interpreter with the forces in Kure. Now, Kure is the big naval seaport in Japan that gave rise to two of the biggest battleships in the world called Musashi and Yamato. The Yamato became a movie because it was a huge ship, the biggest in the world. It was down in the south pacific, got bombed and destroyed before it could do any damage. So, Kure was under the jurisdiction of the British and Australian forces. A lot of people my age and who spoke English, but very little Japanese, went to work as interpreters for these people. As I wrote in my article to Jordan I know that quite a few of the boys, they wanted to go back to Canada. Since they didn't have any money they were able to join the Canadian forces when the Korean War broke out, 1950, I think it was. This was a sure way of getting back to Canada but through Korea laughs. They have to fight in Korea before they can go back to Canada but a lot of them did. I know for sure that quite a few, maybe a dozen or more boys joined the Canadian forces because were able to retain our Canadian citizenship and get back to Canada that way. I took another route. I went to the United States before I came back to Canada but that was because my family could afford to send me to come back to Canada and the United States but some of the people couldn't so they found a way of getting through the armed forces. A lot of the other people who, younger than me, they stayed in Japan and a lot of them became Japanese citizens and stayed like my brothers and sisters. Of seven kids, three are in North America now. I have a younger brother who lives in Dollard-Des-Ormeaux in Montreal because he followed me. He came to me and said “I'd like to learn English. I want to stay in Montreal.” So he came, he stayed with us for about six months or so on the job and he left on his own. I have another sister who lives in Los Angeles now but she first went to live with my aunt that I told you about, the religious aunt in Seattle, she was there. She married an American Nisei and she stayed there but after her divorce she moved to Los Angeles. So she's living in Los Angeles but my other four all stayed in Japan. They married Japanese women. My sister married a Japanese man and they consider Japan their home country now but that happens to a lot of the other Niseis too I think. They stayed in Japan and they learned Japanese, got married in Japan, so they stayed there.
LJ
Did you think you'd ever come back to Canada?
HS
No, I didn't think I'd come back. I was hoping to stay in the United States. I went to Massachusetts in 1957 to a place called Beverly. The reason why I went to Beverly is because when I was working for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Hiroshima there were quite a few American MDs that were there, you know, for research. They were a part of the United States Public Health System.
00:55:33.000
00:55:33.000
HS
I know for sure that they told me that they didn't want to go into the army, navy, or the air force so they'd get killed so they took to the public health system. They came to Hiroshima to study the after effects of the atomic bomb on humans. They were there and one of them ... We became very good friends with them. There were about four American doctors and since I spoke English fluently we became very good friends. One of them, a guy named Manny Capilan who came from Boston and was a graduate of Harvard, said “Henry, if you want to go back to the states and you want to go to a good place to do your surgical training. I'll get a place for you.” So he phoned his friend living in Boston at that time who was in a surgical program ... “there's a guy here who wants to go to do some surgical training in the United States. Can you accommodate him?” So Manny ... This guy Mill Dalpher wrote back saying “Yeah, I got a place for him. There's a small community of hospitals just outside of Boston in Beverly that is very very helpful and conducive to foreign graduates coming to study.” I wound up in Beverly, Massachusetts.
LJ
I've been to Beverly.
HS
You did?
LJ
Yeah.
HS
Oh, yeah. It's a very nice little town.
LJ
It is, it's ...
HS
Right next to Salem.
LJ
Yeah.
HS
It's supposed to be the home of the US Navy or something, distinction. It's a place where a guy named Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. lived. It's also a place where General Patton used to live; George Patton, famous guy. Part of my autobiography, I'm going to right a fact that I and my wife were guests on the ship called the When and If. When and If was a big yacht that George Patton had built and he and his wife were going to sail around the world When and If the time came. That's why it's called When and If. His wife died because she was thrown from a horse when she was, you know, jumping. General Patton died in a Jeep accident in Europe so his wife's brother, Fred Ayer, inherited the When and If. He was the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Beverly Hospital so he invited us to go on a ship and we sailed around the harbor for two nights. He made breakfast for us and so forth. So we have the distinction of having sailed on the ship When and If that belonged to George Patton.
LJ
So what was it like coming back to North America after having been away?
HS
Well, it wasn't really too much of a hurdle for me. For her, it was. I know I landed in Seattle on this freighter. It took us about ten, twelve days to cross the pacific. There's a little story about that, too, but anyways when I got to Seattle I went to my aunt's place. Stayed there for about ten days, got on a plane and flew to Beverly. In Beverly, the guy who was in charge of the residency training program, Phil Herrick, came to the airport at Boston to meet me and he took me to ... It was clear sailing. We had a great time there. Four years I was there. One of the things that I could have done, I guess, is stayed there after I finished my training at a community hospital if I had American citizenship or if I applied for it. I still had my Canadian passport and even though at that time I was Canadian, for some unknown reason, I fell under the Japanese quota if I want to immigrate to the United States even though I was Canadian.
01:00:01.000
01:00:01.000
HS
That got my dandlers up. I said “what the hell. I don't want to stay in the states.” Also, I wanted to go into academic surgery. I didn't want to stay in a community hospital. I want to do some research and teaching. In 1961 I went to Toronto, looked at the Toronto University system, McGill system, the two cities. I said, “the hell with Toronto.” I picked Montreal in 1961. At that time Montreal was the mecca. It was the capital of Canada in terms of finances, science, anything. The Party Quebecois ruined it in 1972 when they took power. Anyways, I really enjoyed Beverly Massachusetts for four years; became good friends with a lot of people there, doctors from all different countries, the local doctors, we got along very well, some people who befriended us; and my wife had two children there so there was a nanny who came and looked after the kids. So it was a very pleasant life but I was very happy to come back to Canada and to Montreal because I wanted to go into academic surgery. That's what I chose for my life.
LJ
How was your French?
HS
My French was terrible at that time. I mean, it's still not good but I could have gone along with my patience in French. I could read communication from the government but not really fluent in French. She never became fluent in French. That's one of the reasons why we moved to Ottawa because of the language problem.
LJ
So you were in Ottawa and you've been here for, you said, just a couple of months.
HS
Yeah, from October.
LJ
You didn't want to be in Montreal anymore or ...
HS
Yeah, I could have stayed. I was okay. I had no problems. I have a brother still living there. My older son still wants to live there. We raised three kids, bilingual, a little bit trilingual because they speak some Japanese. All three of them are bilingual so they'd have no problem. My son here, Paul, he's bilingual so he has no problem's here in Ottawa because it's a bilingual city and he's very ... his French is very good but his wife is unilingual because she comes from Saskatchewan so that's why he'll never go to Montreal. He wants to stay here. My son in Montreal, he's bilingual, he has a wife who's Italian. She's trilingual for sure. He wants to stay there because he's in the real estate business. We could have stayed there but I wanted to come to Ottawa for the simple reason that she doesn't speak any French and my wife is starting to have some memory problems. Being with family, rather than living in a condo just the two of us, I thought would be much more therapy, you know, occupational therapy for her. Paul has two kids, nine and eleven and they're both at school now but they play a lot of hockey, soccer, and they're starting to learn some golf which we enjoy. It's much better for us to have family around than living in a condo going up and down in an elevator and doing nothing, you know, sort of sit around and watch the world go by. So that's why we're here.
LJ
When did you ... you met your wife in Japan. When did you meet your wife?
HS
Well, I met my wife while I was still going to medical school. I was in the third year of medical school and she was travelling from Montreal to Kure, the city with the occupation forces, because she was working as a secretary, typist actually, at one of the camps there, a base. There was an American Nisei woman who spoke English well. She was also working there. She introduced us together and sort of became ... “we're going to stay for a while” and when I told my father that I wanted to go to the states to do my post-graduate training in surgery he said “well, if you're going to go to the United States why don't you get married before you go?” I could see the ulterior motive there. He wanted me to marry a Japanese girl rather than going to the states and marrying an American girl. So he said “why don't you get married before you go?” So I said “fine. I have a girl that I like and I think she would have no problem coming with me to the states so we'll get married.” So we did.
01:05:13.000
01:05:13.000
LJ
That's been how many years?
HS
That was in 1957.
LJ
So nearly sixty years.
HS
Almost sixty years we were married. Yeah, with three kids and eight grandchildren.
LJ
How about that.
HS
And my daughter who lives in Philadelphia, she's the oldest of the three. She was born in Beverly Massachusetts. She married a Scottish-Canadian who's a vascular surgeon. He was a professor of vascular surgery at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Princeton. Now he's got a new job as head of surgery at the Crozer health system in Philadelphia. She has three kids. My son in Montreal has three kids. My son Paul, here, has two kids. We've expanded laughs.
LJ
Full house, yeah. Do you remember ... you sort of want to pass along memories of your history to your grandkids and to your kids.
HS
So that's why I'm writing an autobiography. I'm trying.
LJ
Yeah.
HS
I've got five phases: Vancouver, Lemon Creek, Japan, Beverly, Montreal, and now Ottawa.
LJ
Yeah, that's an organized way of thinking about ...
HS
Yeah, I'm trying to do it that way. I've got it going and I'm doing Lemon Creek right now. The big part is Japan. I lived in Japan for eleven and a half years. I've seen the whole gamut of how Japan has developed from a completely war torn disorganized place to where it is now in a short period of eleven, twelve years. Amazing how much good work and planning and thinking is going on to make Japan the big nation it is right now.
LJ
So you've gone back ... HENRY I've gone back many times while my parents were living and while her parents were living. We used to go back almost every year, once a year and I would get invited to give lectures at the alma mater and other medical schools in Japanese or English, I could do it. There were also, at the beginning when I was still young and filled with vigor and doing a lot of research, they invited me but not anymore. I'm too old now laughs.
LJ
You were teaching at McGill until fairly recently.
HS
I was teaching until December 2014. I enjoyed teaching and I like to teach medical schools and medical students in residence. I was doing basic, not basic, clinical research. Basic research that's, you know, working in the lab with mice and test tubes and so forth. I think clinical research is just as important so we're doing what was called randomized clinical trials, prospective randomized clinical trials where you pick a drug or pick a surgical procedure which you think is good but haven't got any ways to prove it's good but you do it on a prospective randomized trial. For example, one of the things that we did and I'm very proud of it is the fact that we were able to show that a partial mastectomy, or what we called breast conserving surgery, is just as good as taking the whole breast out. We did that study. I was at McGill. I was the principal investigator for the NSABP which is the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project where we randomized women. One got a total mastectomy, one got a partial mastectomy, one group got a partial mastectomy with radiation to the breast only to see if there's less recurrences in the breast and we're able to show that at the end of twenty years there's no difference in survival but the women whose breasts were preserved, they're just as well as those who've got it taken off. Plus the one who got radiation, the recurrence in the breast was much lower than if you just lift it alone without radiation. So now the standard of treatment for breast cancer is lumpectomy or breast conservation therapy plus radiation. That is the standard. We were part of this group that did this study.
01:10:04.000
01:10:04.000
LJ
That's pretty impressive.
HS
Yeah, no no, I'm very happy that I was with the NSABP and part of this randomized trial because one institution alone cannot have enough patients. If we're dealing with people you have to have thousands and thousands of people. If you're dealing with a laboratory animal which is all the same genetic background you can have ten or fifteen and you can do this study and it will be statistically significant but in humans, with all kinds of ages and different nationalities and groups and so forth, you have to have thousands. So the NSABP did a prospective randomized trial for breast cancer and conserving they must have had about 10,000 women entered into it. About 3000 each arm and they were all followed very religiously. You can't just do a study for one year and say “hey”, no you've got to keep on and that was the beauty of the NSABP and the American government provided funding to hire clinical coordinators, not doctors, clinical coordinators who kept following these people religiously and made sure they came back for their follow-up, made sure they had their test, made sure they had their mammograms, blood tests, everything. That American way of doing things was very very good. The United States is the only country that does it that well. No other country does it that well.
LJ
I'm wondering about that Vancouver phase of your life. Have you been back to Vancouver much?
HS
Not as often as I would like to be, partly because of the fact that my memories there haven't been that good plus my family is over here. I go there any time there's a medical convention, medical meaning surgical convention and I do have lots of friends at the UBC cancer agency. So whenever I go to Vancouver I have a good time, I have some friends from long before that I do look up sometimes. Be that as it may, I never really had the thought of going back there to live. It's supposed to be a retirement capital, Vancouver, Victoria.
LJ
Yeah, Victoria for sure.
HS
I think Ottawa is just as good a retirement capital.
LJ
It's a little snowy today, though. Did you ever go back to the Powell Street neighbourhood or ...
HS
Yeah, I've gone to look at the house where we used to live. It's on 308 Cordova Street. It's gone now. They made some kind of an apartment or condominium complex there now but it used to be there and the distinguishing feature of that house that we lived in was that it had a cherry tree in the front yard, a big cherry tree. It used to be a ... fruits were not too bad to eat but not very good. Anyways, that house, I used to go back there and every time I'd go to Vancouver I'd go and see if that was still there and it was still there. The last time we went, which is about 1989 or 1990, it was gone.
LJ
Oh, okay. I'm trying to think of Cordova and, not Gore, Cordova and Jackson?
HS
Yeah, Cordova and Gore that's the crosslink and then Powell Grounds was one street over, Powell Street I mean. Right around the corner where our house was there's a big church. Saint James Church it was called. It was right around the corner there and we used to go there. In the basement there was scouts. I used to belong to the scouts, wolf cub. We used to go there once a week and do all the things that scouts do until one day we weren't wolf cubs. One of the leaders, a very unlikable guy, he said to us, most of the people there were Japanese.
01:15:00.000
01:15:00.000
HS
He says “why don't you Japs shape up?” he said to us. When I heard that word Jap, it struck a very bad cord with me so I went to my father and said “I don't want to go back to the wolves again because this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. He's very very rude to us.” So he says “well, you don't have to go.” So we stopped going but that incident in the scouts of Canada that I had with this guy calling us that ... but this was just before the war started. Once the war started there's no more scouting for us, you know, Japanese. We're completely ostracized.
LJ
Did you have a lot of friends who were not Japanese?
HS
Yeah. Not many, some, but not many because we're living in a very close-knit community in Vancouver and in the camps and once I got to Japan also, except with the exception of these guys who work for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. Once we got back to the states and Canada, yes, we had lots of them but in Vancouver, no, I didn't really have any friends outside the Japanese group that we traveled in.
LJ
I know that, the BC Security Commission aside, would you say Vancouver was a racist place?
HS
Oh, yeah. Not just against the Japanese but the Chinese and the Indians and the Indigenous Indians, not just the Indians from India. There were a lot of Sikhs in that area, people with turbans. The Indians, the Canadian-Indian, they were all treated badly. I mean, whenever we used to go downtown and walk around the lower part of Powell Street and so forth and you see the prostitutes, a lot of them were Indians. They were the ones who were killed by this whatever guy, this pig farmer that treated them very badly but they were ... even though when we were there they were there, the prostitutes. So Vancouver was a very racist place and I think the reason being because it's called British Columbia for one thing laughs, not because of that but there's a lot of people from England who are in that area and there's no doubt in my mind that the English are very racist people. They are and that's one of the big reasons why Quebec wanted to separate. The French Canadians hated being looked down upon by the English. That's why they call themselves the white niggers of North America because the British treated them that way. That's my understanding because, you know, all the other people that came as immigrants didn't treat the French that way. It's only the British, the people live in Westmount. Let's face it, all the other ethnic groups were treated that way by the English the Japanese, the Jewish people, the Portuguese, the Italians, Irish, even. I can understand where, wanting to become separate, Quebec comes from but yet I think it's a huge, huge disaster. I think it's a big mistake that they've made and therefore Montreal has become a second class city as compared to Toronto all because of this national pride that the French can have of wanting to preserve French, the language, and preserve their so called culture. What is their culture? It's nothing compared to China or Japan or Italy or France or England. What is the culture of Quebec? They're trying to preserve that.
LJ
I don't know. I'd ask you.
HS
They're trying to preserve that. It's having poutine and the voyageurs.
LJ
I know the Jewish community in Toronto was quite supportive and helpful to the Japanese-Canadians. What was it like in ... Did you know anyone in the Jewish community in Montreal?
HS
No, I didn't know a single Jewish person in Canada maybe in Vancouver but I don't think we ever had any. Would you like hot tea?
LJ
I'm okay, thank you.
HS
Me, too. I want some hot tea. Finish your cake.
LJ
Okay.
01:20:03.000
01:20:03.000
HS
No, the Jewish community in Vancouver is non-existent. We didn't have any. The only way I found out about Jewish people is from Manny Capilan in Hiroshima. That's when I first found out that there was a group of people in North America that were doing very well as a group, that's the Jewish group, in places like New York and Boston and, to a certain extent, Montreal.
LJ
Well, yeah, I was going to say in Montreal.
HS
Yeah, sure.
LJ
Was the Jewish community in Montreal active ... I mean, in Toronto they were very helpful to the Japanese-Canadians. Were they ...
HS
I don't know. When we first got to Montreal, that was 1961, and Japanese communities there were already established. When I first came from BC in 1946, '47, I'm not sure how they were received but I don't think they had the same problems like in BC. Toronto was very receptive, I think, and Montreal was receptive. For a while they lived in a, so called, staging area. In Toronto I think it was, I can't remember the place in Toronto, but they weren't allowed into the city right away. They had to stay in a, so called, staging area. In Quebec, there was a place in the eastern township.
LJ
Just thinking about stuff and things and belongings lost, one of the focuses of this project is to try to understand some of that property loss, are there things that you deeply miss and remember?
HS
No, I don't miss anything because I was still about eleven years old when that happened. All I know is that, I think, my parents must have been devastated to think that they had to leave all these religious instruments that they had bought to run this church. It was not just a big drum or symbol but there was huge things and there was tables and they had a alter with the thing. All that they had to leave or put in the custody or whatever. A lot of the stuff they put in custody. You know, stuff that they could put into a box. All the rest is just left. We couldn't do anything with it. Nobody wanted it but I can remember thinking “gee wiz, what happened to all that stuff?” Like I said, my aunt in Seattle said, later on, that was maybe about fifteen, twenty years after the war, that some of that stuff from Vancouver seemed to be in some of the secondhand stores in Seattle and Portland. That drifted down from Vancouver.
LJ
Did that make you angry?
HS
In a way, yes, but hey, what can you do? It's something that happened. I had no control over it. I'm angry in a way that it happened only in BC because something like that never happened in the United States.
LJ
No.
HS
See the difference? Go ahead. The difference is that in the United States all these places, homes, automobiles, ships, were held in custody. They were really held in custody and when the war ended the people who had property ... mind you a lot of property were held in their kid's name. If they were not citizens they couldn't have property. It's only their kids who are Nisei that could have property but they had places to go back to when the war ended but in Vancouver, not on the west coast in Canada. To me, that's upsetting. Why did the Canadian government and the BC government act in such a way that they were very racist in what they did to the Japanese?
LJ
Yeah ...
HS
But there's a saying in Japanese called shikata ga nai. You know that?
LJ
I've heard it but what does it mean to you?
HS
Shikata ga nai means 'it can't be helped.'
LJ
Can it? Can it be helped?
HS
It can be helped in a way but once it's happened I can't bring it back anymore. You can try and prevent something from happening but what's happened has happened so why be obsessed with the fact that things could have been better? You waste your energy thinking of that. What the heck, you know?
01:25:15.000
01:25:15.000
LJ
So, is it future-looking then? It can't be helped so you look to the future?
HS
Shikata ga nai means, yeah, future-looking. What's passed is passed.
LJ
What's passed is passed, you have to focus on the future.
HS
Yeah. That's Shikata ga nai.
LJ
Were your parents upset? I mean, at some point they went to the custodian ...
HS
My father was upset, very upset, but my father was ... he didn't have much of an education but he did a lot of reading. My mother was not a scholar or anything. She was a business woman. Her family was in business. When we got to Hiroshima my mother's family had a business going and we could just fit in there and our lives were made much easier because of that. My father was much more, shall we say, scholarly. He did a lot of reading and he was very upset with the fact that Japan went to war, first of all. During the war, in our camps ... I don't know if you know ... the thing is that there's two sides. One group said “Japan's going to win no matter what” and the other group says “no, Japan can't win.” My father was the one that kept saying they can't win. “They can't win”, he said, “there's no way.” Where the other group said “no, no, Japan's going to win. The emperor's almighty army and navy is so strong that they're going to defeat the Americans and the other people.” During the camp, there was a little bit of enmity between these two groups.
LJ
But no matter what group you were on, did you feel ... I mean, whether you thought Japan could win or Japan can't win, did you feel Canadian? Are you Japanese?
HS
Me?
LJ
Yeah.
HS
No, I felt I was Canadian because I was born in Canada. I was educated in the Canadian system. Although I had to go to Japanese language school, I never really thought I was quote 'Japanese.' When I got to Japan and went into the system there, I again felt the difference that I was not really Japanese because no matter how, you know, I tried hard to fit in with the Japanese system, my background being born in Canada and having a Canadian education made me different from all the rest of my classmates and so forth. So even though I fit in very well, I don't think I had any problem fitting in with the medical school system there. I became a doctor and all my friends looked up to me because ... they all respect me because I was speaking English properly and “wow” I could read textbooks in English and so forth. They were all calling me by my nickname. I was known as Rusty because my middle name is Riuske. So, in Vancouver, when we were kids all my boy friends were calling me Riuske, never called me Henry, they called me Rusty. So even in Japan, when I told my classmates my name was Rusty, they started calling me Rusty. In a way, I was different and I always felt different, so, yes, I felt Canadian more than Japanese.
LJ
In terms of ... I'm noticing you've got some Japanese figurines here. This is stuff that you would have collected when you were living in Japan?
HS
No, these are all my son's.
LJ
Your son's, okay.
HS
Now, for your edification those dolls on the thing are Korean.
LJ
Okay.
HS
They're not Japanese.
LJ
Okay.
HS
The one on top there is Japanese and this thing here, the calligraphy, is Japanese but those are Korean.
LJ
Those are Korean, okay.
HS
You know why?
LJ
No.
HS
Because my son, paul, and Krista tried very hard to have kids of their own. They couldn't. They tried. They came to Montreal, went through the artificial insemination program and all that. They suffered and spent a lot of money trying to have babies of their own. They couldn't. So, in 2005 they went to Korea and adopted a boy. A Korean boy.
01:30:18.000
01:30:18.000
HS
Two years later they said “one boy's not enough. We want another child.” So they said “we're going to adopt another child.” There's a Korean adoption agency here so they went there and said “we'd like to adopt another child from Korea.” So, I guess, a little bit later they came back and said “hey, we have another boy who's up for adoption. He happens to be the real brother of the boy you adopted two years ago.” They adopted two biological brothers.
LJ
Wow.
HS
Yeah, that's one in a million chance.
LJ
That's pretty rare, yeah.
HS
Right? So two boys here, Evan and Kyle. They're brothers. Real brothers. They don't look alike. There's a lot of brothers that don't look alike but they're real brothers.
LJ
That's certainly Japanese, isn't it? Over there, that.
HS
Yeah, that's Mount Fuji. These are Japanese. That painting of the maple leaf is by my sister-in-law. She's a watercolour painter in Montreal and she does a very good job. She's a well known artist of watercolour in Montreal. The other one is killer whales in BC.
LJ
I was going to say that looks like BC.
HS
Yeah, that's a killer whale. I think I bought that picture in BC for my son on one of my travels to BC.
LJ
Yeah, it certainly looks like BC.
HS
Yeah, well, you know, Canada ... People ask me, coming from Japan, “what should we take back to Japan that's really Canadian?”
LJ
Right, what do you tell them?
HS
I say “if there's something you want to take back to Japan then you have to take back maple syrup.”
LJ
From Quebec, for sure.
HS
Quebec, there's nothing better than maple syrup.
LJ
But, you know, in Vancouver that's not ...
HS
Well, Vancouver, again, Eskimo or Indian art. What else is there that's really Canadian?
LJ
Salmon?
HS
Yeah, salmon. They can take smoked salmon and things like that and then there's, I don't know if you know, but BC also has another marine delicacy that the Japanese love. That is herring roe.
LJ
Oh, sure. Yeah.
HS
But the difference in the BC roe is that the herring there lay their eggs on kelp and for some strange, natural way this roe sticks to the kelp and is very very difficult to scrape off. So, what you wind up doing is cutting the kelp with the roe on it and eating it and it's one of the delicacies that the Japanese love. It's called Kazunoko Kombu. Kombu is the word for kelp. Kazunoko is the herring roe. So Kazunoko by itself means the herring roe that you cut out from the fish's belly and that's the Kazunoko. If it's on the kelp it's called Kazunoko Kombu which is a much more bigger delicacy than just the roe itself. That, you can get only in BC. No place else in the world. Did you know that?
LJ
I didn't.
HS
You go to BC next time and go to a Japanese restaurant and ask for Kazunoko Kombu. That's what you'll get. Now, the big thing about this Kazunoko Kombu is there's only one group of people who can harvest it from the sea.
LJ
Who's that?
HS
The Native Indians.
LJ
Okay.
HS
You know, before there was a law passed, the Japanese and everybody else could go out in the ocean, cut the kelp, bring it, and sell it but then because of the overfishing of the kelp the BC government, smart, said “okay, there's only one group of people who can benefit from that and it's the Indians.” So only the Indians could cut the kelp, bring it to the market, and sell it in BC. I think that's proper and very smart but Kazunoko Kombu, in Japan, is a delicacy.
01:35:02.000
01:35:02.000
HS
So you're right, salmon, but it's not the salmon roe. Salmon roe is also a delicacy. We all know that but it's the herring roe that's laid on the kelp and it's almost watertight. You can hardly get it off the kelp. I don't know if the herring produces an adhesive but it sticks to the kelp. It doesn't come off, amazing thing. You go to the Atlantic Ocean and you get the herring there, you don't have that.
LJ
They don't have the kelp?
HS
No, they don't lay it on the kelp. The herring there lay it on the ground, the female, and the male comes and fertilizes it with their sperm. That's it but it's close. The female will lay it on the kelp, it sticks. Amazing thing.
LJ
That makes me wonder, what sorts of foods do you remember growing up with?
HS
Hm?
LJ
What sorts of foods do you remember growing up with?
HS
Oh, Japanese.
LJ
Yeah.
HS
The only difference is because we were only eating Japanese all the time, my mother was cooking it all the time, that for us a treat was going to a Chinese restaurant.
LJ
Yeah, there would have been plenty just west of Gore.
HS
Oh, yeah Gore, Pender, that area has a lot of Chinese restaurants. The biggest thing for us was going to Chinatown and going to a Chinese restaurant. My favourite food was spareribs. I'd eat spareribs, sweet and sour pork spareribs. Still love it to this day. That was my ... My parents would say “let's go to a restaurant.” I'd say “okay, Chinese. Don't go to Japanese.”
LJ
Your dad was a cook, did he cook in a Japanese restaurant?
HS
No, no, no. I ...
LJ
So you were saying you were taking some of the pictures you took on a little Kodak ...
HS
Yeah, yeah. Box camera. Technology's advanced so much we have all these digital cameras. Even with the iPhones you can get camera, different thing. Even a recorder, the first time I've seen a recorder it's this small.
LJ
It's tiny, yeah. Have you shown your children or grandchildren some of these photos?
HS
Not all of them. I'm hoping that I can get my autobiography finished and put some of my pictures in there so that when people are ... kick the bucket so to speak. I think show it to my kids, yeah. Even my kids, I haven't really showed it that much although some of them have seen it but my grandchildren, no, I haven't really shown it to them.
LJ
Yeah.
HS
No, I think that's one of the reasons why I'm trying to write my autobiography. There's a difference between a memoire and an autobiography. Right?
LJ
What's the difference?
HS
Well, a memoire is more select areas where you talk about things and you embellish it to a certain extent. An autobiography is more factual. You only write, more or less, what you experienced and what you did and things like that but a memoire is more about the spiritual side of all these things and you're writing about how you responded to such and such a time or area or how you responded to what was going on around you with different people that you'd meet. I think that's what a memoire is. An autobiography is more a factual, historical thing. I think. I'm not sure.
LJ
So you're after an autobiography?
HS
Well, I'm trying to make a book. No, I had, at one time, I had very, shall we say, noble feelings and said “maybe I'll write a book about some of the things that I have experienced.” I know some of my friends have done that, written autobiographies, written memoires , and I think one guy even wrote a novel. One of my friends in Montreal Yosh Taguchi, he's written a book about Zen and surgery. He's a urologist and he's written a very good book about how he feels that his surgical career has been helped by the fact that he really believed in that practice, Zen. I thought about something like that but so far haven't had the incentive to do it. I'm just writing an autobiography for my kids.
01:40:28.000
01:40:28.000
LJ
Just.
HS
Just, yeah. No, I think if I hadn't become a doctor I may have become a reporter or a journalist or something of that nature because I mentioned the fact that when I was in high school in Lemon Creek one of my teachers, who is Gertrude Hamilton, she had a gift for the English language and she imported some of that feeling for language that I, sort of, have. I think my vocabulary is quite good. I do a lot of reading and I try to retain words that are important. I think I may have, if I put my mind to it, and if I'm not so lazy I can do something a little bit better. Not that I have all the time. You see I have stopped working in clinics and stuff and teaching. I haven't a lot of time on my hands looking after my wife, so to speak, because her memory loss is quite acute now. So for me to do things with her, this is, it's just important.
LJ
Yeah. Well, all the more reason I appreciate you taking time out of your day to chat with me. It's really been a pleasure to just hear your story and all the places you've lived and all the things that you've done. So I really appreciate it.
HS
Well, as I've said I've lived a very, shall we say, interesting life. I think I've done a lot of things that I wanted to do and I think I've done more or less a good job in bringing up my three kids and my eight grandchildren. One of the things that I really wanted to do before kicking the bucket ... I don't know if you saw that movie Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Those guys, they're dying. I'm not dying yet. They had a bucket list that they did and one of the bucket lists that I've set for myself is to visit the Seven Wonders of the World.
LJ
Okay.
HS
Not natural wonders but manmade wonders because, to me, seeing Mount Fuji or Niagara Falls or Angel Falls is okay. It's nice and beautiful but to see the manmade wonders of the world, to me, is much more, shall we say, an incentive and to see what humans have brought over the years. So I've been to the pyramids, sphinx. I've been to the Acropolis in Parthenon. I've been to the Vatican and the old Roman amphitheater there.
LJ
The coliseum?
HS
Yeah, the coliseum. I've been to Vienna. I've been to Venice. The Place Versailles and I've been to the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, and Korwat. I've been to more the places that I think are, shall we say, manmade wonders.
LJ
Now you've got to go to Peace Tower in Ottawa.
HS
Laughing Yeah. I guess so. I've been to the parliament building.
LJ
Okay, there you go.
HS
So Nachiko and I have been to all these different places. I think, for example, people ask me how many countries have you visited? And so far I've visited thirty-nine countries.
LJ
Wow.
HS
Yup. For me, to go to these places, usually tying it up with a medical convention, you know? I've been able to do that. My wife, she says that she beats me because she is born on an island called Palou on the south pacific. Now, Palou is a republic of its own. It's a country. She was born there. So she says she's forty laughs. I've never been there.
LJ
Fair enough. You might just have to find a medical conference in Palou.
HS
Yeah, somewhere there but she was born in Palou but there's all these little small islands in that area called Saipan, Wake Island, and all the small ... Yap Island. They're all republics now but Yap is a country of its own and last year the emperor and empress of Japan visited Yap on the Palou Island because Palou Island there's a lot of ship wrecks with the Japanese Navy and American Navy. A huge battle went down in that area and there were plenty of sunken ships. They're all strewn on the ocean floor and they are places where the fish congregate. So if you want to go scuba diving in that area, Palou Island is probably one of the best places to go. So that is the island where she was born. I was born in Vancouver she was born in Palou. So we're both not really Japanese in that respect.
LJ
Fair enough, yeah. That's a true multicultural story. Well, thank you so much for your time today.
HS
Okay, well I'm sorry I jumped all over the place.
LJ
No, it was wonderful.
HS
You have my email address, you have my phone, you can call me anytime you want for something better explained or so forth.
01:46:31.000

Metadata

Title

Henry Shibata, interviewed by Josh Labove, 29 February 2016

Abstract

Henry begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia. He recalls losing his childhood friends when the war started and also explains why his father decided to take the family back to Japan. Henry not only provides a detailed account of his journey to Japan but also outlines how he found his way back to Canada. Before leaving for Japan, Henry remembers being sent to the Custodian of Enemy Property’s warehouse to retrieve his family’s belongings. However, the warehouse steward notified him that there was no record of his family leaving anything in their care. Henry moves on to explain his experiences at the Lemon Creek internment camp, the living conditions there, and the emotions he felt during and after internment. Near the end of the interview, Henry reflects on how his parents may have felt about their internment and dispossession.

Credits

Interviewer: Josh Labove
Interviewee: Henry Shibata
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Ottawa, Ontario
Keywords: Japantown ; Raymond Moriyama; Japanese Language School; Powell Street ; Powell Grounds; Asahi Baseball Team ; Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame; Lemon Creek ; Kaz Suga ; Slocan Valley ; New Denver ; Bay Farm ; Tenrikyo; Yokohama; Massachusetts; Seattle; Hastings Park ; Capilano Canyon; Kuriyama; Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission; Hiroshima ; Nagasaki ; Medical School; Beverly Massachusetts; 1940s – 1990s

Terminology

Readers of these historical materials will encounter derogatory references to Japanese Canadians and euphemisms used to obscure the intent and impacts of the internment and dispossession. While these are important realities of the history, the Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective urges users to carefully consider their own terminological choices in writing and speaking about this topic today as we confront past injustice. See our statement on terminology, and related sources here.